This week we focus on disc bulge or disc herniation and Chiropractic treatment. Before we dive into describing a herniated disc vs a bulging disc, I would like to remind you of the basic anatomy of the spine.
Your spine is separated into different bony segments called vertebrae. Between your vertebrae are discs, which have a spongy, jelly-like layer of soft cartilage that helps your spine protect its flexibility. This soft inner core is the “nucleus pulposus.” A more rigid outer layer of cartilage protects this soft layer, the “annulus fibrosis.” Though these layers act as cushions for the vertebrae, long-term pressure or short-term traumatic injuries can cause them to move and bulge, as we’ll discuss below. A bulging disc is comparable to letting air out of a car tire. The disc begins to sag and looks like it is bulging outward. With a herniated disc, the outer covering of the disc has a hole or tear. This causes the nucleus pulposus, or jelly-like center of the disc, to leak into the spinal canal. These specific conditions of the spine can cause patients significant discomfort, but there are many treatment options.
The research article I would like to call attention to today is one that evaluates the efficacy of chiropractic care and home stretches and exercises for disc bulge/herniation treatment. The comparison group in this study was receiving chiropractic adjustments as well as at home stretches and exercises. This group was compared with a population only using at home stretching and exercising to treat low back pain and leg pain associated with disc bulge/herniation. There were 192 patients that participated in the study and they were treated/evaluated for 12 consecutive weeks. The treatment group received 24 adjustments over this time period and performed stretching and exercise at home 3 days a week. The control group performed the same stretches and exercises 3 times a week, but had no Chiropractic treatments.
At the end of the study, researchers found that the group receiving both modes of care had the best results for decreasing pain, increasing quality of life, decreasing medication usage, and overall health improvement. Once again this study shows us that the adjustment is very important for proper healing in the disc tissue as well as making sure we are preventing any further damage done to the area. The stretches and exercises are an extra layer of treatment, and they work to create movement which is beneficial once the body has been relaxed and aligned properly. The control group (stretching and exercise alone) was not able to achieve optimal results because while at-home interventions can help relieve pain temporarily or help encourage better movement patterns, this alone cannot help with disc damage.
The research team did a follow up to this study at 52 weeks post care and found that only the group which received both the chiropractic care and the stretches/exercises were still reporting a decrease in pain, increased quality of life, decreased medication use, and general health improvement. The benefit to actually fixing the problem shows here because it helps deliver longer lasting results. Even more importantly, getting effective treatment helps to prevent similar damage or injury from occurring in the future.